Jason Heatley enjoyed a brief, but action-filled AFL career in the late 90s. He played 63 games – almost all of them with St Kilda – and topped the Saints goalkicking twice, including in their grand final year of 1997.
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It’s never wise to write a review of a game immediately after the final siren, especially one as poor as St Kilda’s was on Friday. The idea is that the anger and disappointment will disappear and some more coherent thoughts will come to mind.
Unfortunately, the performance on Friday was so pathetic that time has not softened my views.
It’s been called one of the worst losses in St Kilda’s history, or at least since the darkest days of Tim Watson’s tenure as coach, and the background noise that has always been there, questioning Alan Richardson’s position, has been pushed to the fore.
The unfortunate thing about Good Friday is that it answered the questions about St Kilda that the preseason did not seem to answer. The Saints will not just be inconsistent this season, they might be outright horrible.
There is really no excuse for the lack of basic skills being displayed by professional footballers, especially when not under pressure. To constantly miss marks, ten-metre kicks, handballs and other simple skills is a gift to any opposition. The forward line looks ineffectual, despite the obvious talent.
The midfield is slow and lacks outside talent, and the defence is suffering from this failure, which is further exaggerated when Jake Carlisle is thrown forward to fix the hole in the forward line.
The ruck situation though is the most glaring problem. Billy Longer can get taps, but is absolutely invisible in every other situation, and Tom Hickey can be fine around the ground but gets soundly beaten in ruck contests.
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It’s said that the ruck is of less importance in the modern game, but the best rucks in the league can change the course of a match. As it is, St Kilda is effectively playing with 17 men on the field each week.
The current gameplan is clearly not working and a radical overhaul is needed. Why not try something from the past? Why not give Paddy McCartin the forward 50, a ‘Paddy’s Paddock’ situation? This gives the midfield an obvious target to aim for, something they seem to be lacking at the moment, or an open forward line to run into, something they seem to thrive on.
While this doesn’t solve every problem that St Kilda will face for the rest of this season, most notably the ruck situation, it does at least offer some kind of solution to the problems that they have so far faced, and plays to the few strengths that the Saints possess.
Looking back in history though, back to 1997 (another era entirely), St Kilda found themselves in an even worse situation than they are in now. They had yet to win a game after two rounds, losing to Hawthorn (who would eventually finish second last) and getting annihilated by Brisbane (in their first season as the Lions).
By Round 5, they were sitting at 1-4, with losses to both Fremantle (in their very first season) and Sydney. Of course, in that season, the Saints recovered to finish top of the ladder in one of the closest seasons on record. So there’s still a faint hope that history can repeat itself.
It’s not yet season over for the Saints, and even a loss against Adelaide won’t end it, but something does need to change – urgently.